Three important court rulings have been handed down in recent weeks regarding claims for harm alleged to have resulted from “climate change” caused by private companies’ carbon emissions. Two of those decisions, by federal courts of appeal, found that such actions may proceed, while the third, by a lower federal court, ordered such a lawsuit dismissed.
While the rulings thus reach very different results, and may each be subject to further review, they nonetheless raise potentially troubling issues for, and may signal what may prove to be a new era of litigation against, generators of carbon emissions. However, the fact that “climate change” claims have survived dismissal at this juncture does not establish that they will prevail over time. Even if the recent court of appeals decisions stand, the underlying claims in those cases present significant hurdles that may be exceedingly difficult for a plaintiff to overcome — including whether any of the cases may be properly certified as a class action and pursued on an aggregate basis, and whether the plaintiff is able to establish the required causal connection between some specific conduct by each defendant and the plaintiff’s particular alleged injury.
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